this question has been weighing heavily on my mind, especially since there seems to be mixed messages coming from everywhere. from some sources the only thing worth having in your early 20s is a serious relationships. other people say the exact opposite, that dating in your early 20s is pointless because those relationships will never go anywhere. as a straight woman in a serious relationship, who is also trying and failing to ignore the opinions of others, these mixed messages have been making me reconsider my life and my investment in my current relationship. so i'm here to get my thoughts out and maybe provide some helpful insight on this difficult question: is a serious relationship worth it in your early 20s?
i will be speaking from the perspective of a female 20-year-old in a 1 year relationship with a man. my discussion will mostly be analyzing the pressure put on straight women to find boyfriends/husbands, and the complexities that come with that. relationships are complicated and unique, and i don't want to discriminate, place blame, or isolate any particular group or person. if you have a different opinion or experience with relationships i would love to hear it! consider sending in your own response to this question on the community. diverse perspectives are absolutely welcomed!
one of my favorite shows is Sex and the City, and needless to say there is a lot of mixed messages about women and relationships. the characters spend equal time complaining about women who settle down and complaining about being single. it seems that from every angle women are criticized. we are shut down for settling down to early, as well as shamed for being single too long. we are looked down on for having serious relationships, and also looked down on for never having a serious relationship. women's value is cut short when we get into a relationship, and when we've never been in one. so what's a girl to do? and whats a girl to think?
these questions get even more complicated when they're specifically applied to women in their early 20s. for most young adults - regardless of gender - our early 20s are a time when we are exploring newfound freedom and independence. many of us are starting our careers or working full-time. we're living on our own, and meeting new friends and going on new adventures. its a great time where the only person you need to care about is yourself, and that means you can pretty much do whatever you want.
so when people find themselves in serious relationships in their early 20s they can often be criticized, mostly on the grounds that they are throwing away the prime of their life on a relationship that likely won't last. i saw a tik tok the other day in which a girl said just that. she made the statement that some girls 'throw their lives away on a husband at 20', and while a husband and a boyfriend are two different things the sentiment reigns true: being in a serious relationship in your 20s is a bad thing.
i agree with this on certain terms, and certain terms only. yes, going out to parties is not nearly as much fun when you're in a relationship. now when i attend house parties i spend most of my time fending off drunk boys who are trying to flirt with me and being the wing woman for my single friend. gone are the days when i could carelessly kiss 5 different boys in a single night and flirt my way into getting free drinks from every guy at the party. now i go home by midnight because my dear boyfriend is patiently waiting for me to come over and watch a movie with a him. but is this a bad thing? in my opinion house parties sucked to begin with, and its a loss i can most definitely take.
with that being said, balancing a social life can become difficult. there's a toxic way of thinking that in life you either have a boyfriend or a big group of friends. the world is under the impression that everyone is Bella Swan and once you get a boyfriend you disappear into a world of mysterious, isolated romance. this doesn't have to be true. you can most definitely have friends as well as a stable and serious relationship, you just need to be thoughtful and aware of your schedule and also keep your priorities in check. my single friends can stay out until 3am at a party, and i typically need to clock in early so i can also spend time with my boyfriend, but that doesn't mean i never see my friends. it also doesn't mean i have a less exciting or fulfilling social life.
then arises the question of value. regardless of all the other opinions - that a serious relationship will take you away from an exciting social life and that a relationship ruins the wonderful independence that comes with being young - there is still the common criticism that relationships in your early 20s won't work out, and therefore no time should be wasted on them. the same sentiment is also commonly applied to high schoolers who are head over heels for their new partner only to be met with cynical pessimism from the entire world about whether their relationship will last. it is true that many men in their early 20s do not want to be quickly tied down to a girlfriend. it is true that many women also don't want to be a girlfriend. but it is ALSO true that there are many men, women, and people of all genders who want relationships and will make wonderful devoted partners. and those are the type of people who are in relationships. and i say we should leave them alone.
the flipside to this argument is of course that at the end of the day for every person being criticized for being in a relationship there is someone being criticized for being single. lets refer back to Sex in the City. after watching an episode in which Carrie, Miranda and Samantha make fun of their old friends for getting married and moving to the suburbs, you will watch an episode in which Carrie spends the entire 30 minutes crying over being single and not having someone special to spend her life with. for women this double standard knows no end, and ultimately no matter what you do someone will have something negative to say about it.
so what is the answer to the elusive question of whether or not you should be in a relationship in your early 20s? i say to do whatever the hell you want and not consider too much what other people think. being single is fun and wonderful. you can stay out late and do whatever you want without having to consider the existence of another person. being in a relationship is also fun and wonderful because you have someone to rely on and can go on fun adventures with a person you love. in the end the relationships in your life should be focused on balance, and the way we view other's relationships should be rooted in respect. the world is tough for women, and in a sea of double standards where we get criticized for every choice we make, that criticism should never come from another woman. while i love watching Sex and the City i will admit that the way they put down married women is cruel and unkind. seek to love and support others, and if someone is happy, let them be. relationship or not, you have value as a person and your life is just as fun and exciting as anyone else's. don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
written controversially by
grace and hannah